Stay interviews hold potential pitfalls. Most of these potential problems occur when interviews are conducted inefficiently. The following 13 traps should be avoided whenever possible:
1. Fear of response. Managers who are reluctant to use stay interviews often fear that the employee responses will present them with no-win situations based on specific areas of concern, such as pay or promotion. The proper approach toward this inappropriate fear is to rely on prepared probes, as well as solutions that are reliable responses to these specific employee concerns.
2. Bringing up performance issues. Unless an employee’s responses indicate an ambition that goes beyond the scope of his or her performance, issues related to job performance should be avoided–particularly if they have not been discussed previously. If an employee uses the phrase “You never told me that,” the stay interview is effectively concluded.
3. Tipping the agenda. Since managers will have an “Important to Them” list for reference, there may be a temptation for them to direct the conversation to items on the prepared list. The employee must be the driver of any good stay interview’s content.
4. Being sketchy about resources. A manager must know the full details of the company’s resources and be prepared to reference and offer them during stay interviews.
5. Forcing meetings. The initial drive toward conducting stay interviews should originate from team leaders, not from the top levels of management on down.
6. Conquering silence. A manager should leave ample space in the conversation for an employee to pause, reflect, and then continue speaking. A manager who speaks simply to relieve tension or break an awkward pause is redirecting the flow of the interview and discouraging the employee from opening up.
7. Losing focus. Even if an employee’s conversation is so dull that it is sleep inducing, a manager must remain on task. One helpful hint is to write the same phrase over and over on a notepad in order to remain alert.
8. Becoming defensive. Rather than responding to perceived criticisms, a manager must remain focused on probes, allowing the employee to control the flow of conversation. Listening, being respectful, and asking probing questions establishes employee trust by proving that the employee’s concerns have been heard.
9. Throwing the company under the bus. Executives or other higher ups should never be blamed for conflicts, policies, or problems. The best response to criticism of the company or company executives is to state confidence in the knowledge and decision-making capacities of top officers.
10. Solving quickly. The objective of a stay interview is to probe deeply, solve completely. Quick solutions are seldom effective. Managers must ask and listen to gain valuable employee information.
11. Building a poor stay plan. It is vital for employees to be involved in follow-up actions and the development of stay plans.
12. Dropping the ball. Managers must honor all commitments made in stay plans, including deadlines.
13. Breaking trust. Any statement or action that fails to promote trust or offer a solution to trust-breaking issues is a detriment to a stay interview.